“I remain committed to supporting and championing the arts, specifically dance. I learned how powerful and necessary it is to have a community of people encourage you to find and use your voice.”
Nia-Amina is a movement artist and dance educator. Through performance and teaching, she investigates the intersections of movement, memory, and rhythm. Whether on stage, in the studio, or in the streets, Nia-Amina approaches movement as a site for gathering.
What led you to become a teaching artist?
I studied at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, where, from a young age, I was surrounded by international artists and master teachers.
One of my first jobs in the arts was as an education intern at the San Francisco Ballet Center for Dance Education. I spent the summer among educators and artists learning how programs are developed.
As a teaching assistant at UC Irvine, I led and worked alongside professors in Jazz Technique, Dance History, and Dance and Technology. Arts education became the space where I could focus on building curriculum, programs, and artistic experiences for people who face barriers to the arts, or whose artistic voices have been neglected.
To meet dancers where they are, and make movement-based practices accessible to all ages and skill levels. I encourage communication and reciprocity, and work to establish a comfortable environment. I make time for questions, and value learning from students as well.
Through student-centered choreography and improvisation, I create a space where the class feels their contribution matters. As an artist with a multi-genre background, I believe presenting multiple perspectives and histories of dance is important. I stress the centrality of movement that already exists in students’ lives, from social dance to other physical practices.
Describe a good teaching day:
There is a synergy in the room. Students have questions that make you ask more questions, and the boundary between student and teacher disintegrates as you share joy and curiosity.
Those days, something unexpected happens and you deviate from the lesson plan to improvise with the students. Class goes a few minutes later, there is sweat on the floor, and conversation and laughter in the air.
On a good teaching day, that one student who rarely speaks decides to share, and the whole class holds space for her.
A good teaching day reminds you that there is much to discover.
Photo credit: Devin Muñoz